Blog: Dean BestInnovation, innovation, innovation, says General Mills

Dean Best | 2 July 2009

It's obvious: when you've got a good story to tell, you want to go to great lengths to shout about it.

General Mills, the US food giant behind brands like Old El Paso and Haagen-Dazs, certainly followed that maxim yesterday (1 July) when it outlined its annual results.

Its conference with analysts, broadcast over the Internet, was lengthy, even by the standards of most results presentations.

Indeed, the plug had to be pulled on the Internet broadcast when the conference broke the 90-minute mark - even though the General Mills management was still ploughing through questions.

Aside from record US retail sales and a robust performance from its international business (notwithstanding the whack the General Mills' overseas figures took from the strong dollar), the company was keen to demonstrate that, even in recession, innovation remains key to its future.

While some industry watchers have questioned the merits of launching products in a recession, General Mills boss Ken Powell insisted it was a "great time to launch new products".

However, when one eagle-eyed analyst (dontcha just love them) pointed out that the number of new products set to be launched by General Mills in the next six months was actually down on the first half of its previous fiscal year, it cast some doubt on the company's boldness.

Nevertheless, Ian Friendly, the COO of General Mills' US retail division, had a response ready. The company, he said, wants "bigger and better ideas as opposed to large numbers of ideas".

Innovation is always a gamble. But, General Mills's shares closed up almost 4% yesterday. Investors must like the sound of Progresso High Fiber soups, Yoplait Delights parfait and frozen entrees under the Chinese cuisine brand Wanchai Ferry.


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